* Written by Ryan Niemeyer
Spring has begun! In our valley bottoms the grass has started to green up and spring flowers have begun to emerge. This is also the time of year hydrologists take stock of the snowpack, to determine if we had a good or bad snow year. Well as we all experienced, it was a fairly good snow year. As of today (April 11), the Upper Columbia is at 6% above normal (i.e. 6% above the snowpack on April 11 on an average year). We were actually hovering at ~5% below normal in March, but snowfall at high elevation in the last two weeks put our region into above average territory. This is great news, as the snowpack is in a way, our regions largest reservoir and slowly releases water into summer.
But as we all experienced two years ago with the “heat dome”, a good snowpack can be wiped out if the summer heat comes on early, fast and hot. In the short term, there is good news. The NOAA monthly climate prediction has April at above average precipitation and below average temperature. This means high elevation areas may get more snow, and low elevation areas shouldn’t melt out fast. However, NOAA seasonal outlook predicts leaning towards above average temperatures in June-Aug time window and likely above average temperature for the July-Sept time window. So a hot August will likely be hotter than average. Above average temperatures are not good for our salmon, as warmer water temperatures makes it difficult to breathe and makes them more susceptible to diseases. But hopefully the above average snowpack melts out slow this spring and early summer, and keeps streams as cool as possible for our salmon.